Lovers of paedophile and Satanist conspiracies have been having a wonderful time recently with their claims that a Satanist paedophile ring has been operating from Christ Church Church of England Primary School in Hampstead, a beautiful part of North London not far from where I used to live.
Such scares blow up from time to time and they always turn out to be nonsense, or at least, if they contain a grain of truth, to be hugely exaggerated. However on this occasion I have paid more than passing attention because the school in question happens to be where two of my children learnt to read and write and where they spent seven exceptionally happy years.
I have had no involvement with the school since 2008, but the Head Teacher and many of the other teachers and staff, as well as the Parish priest, are the same now as they had been then.
When the previous Head Teacher left in 2007 there were some parents, myself included, who thought that her deputy, an inspirational teacher loved by children and staff alike ought to have got the job. The governors disagreed and the post went to an outsider who quickly proved to be a great success, while the former deputy was immediately snapped up to become Head of another Primary School. These things happen and the school continued to prosper under its new Head. It was, justifiably, hugely over-subscribed.
In September last year two children returned from a holiday with their mother, Ella Draper, and her boyfriend, Abraham Christie. She had been separated from their father, Ricky Dearman, for several years. She had alleged that he had been violent towards her, and had taken out a non-molestation injunction against him (such an injunction does not require proof of violence). For his part, Mr Dearman had had endless problems getting contact with the children and the contact dispute had drifted through seven different judges and nine court hearings with no resolution.
Ms Draper and Mr Christie returned from their holiday with video recordings on a mobile phone. In them the children claimed that they had been sexually abused by numerous people, including their father, other parents and virtually all the teachers and staff at Christ Church school.
The children were taken to the police who formally interviewed them (in what are known as “Achieving Best Evidence” or “ABE” interviews). They repeated the allegations which were wide-ranging, exceptionally serious and, to anyone not already steeped in the belief that cults of Death Eaters, Illuminati and Satanists are operating to prey on innocent children, ought to have been regarded as patently ridiculous.
The interviews were summarised by the Pauffley J, the High Court Judge who ruled last week on Barnet Council’s application to take the children into care:
“The children both describe killing and eating babies, drinking blood, being anally penetrated and being injected with drugs. They provide details of all the people who have been involved – all the teachers, parents of children at the school, social services. P says that the killing of babies is done with “cleavers”; the blood from the babies is poured into a “silver bowl” and she and her brother are “sold for £50 each every single day.” When P is asked what sex is, she initially says it’s when they are hit with a big plastic stick between their legs. Then she says “real sex is, like, they get plastic willies, they stick it in our bum, that’s what kind of sex they do.” When asked about the people involved in these activities, P suggests the police should “catch the whole school, catch all the staff there.” She adds a little later that “all the Hampstead schools do it.”
Q tells the police all about the plastic willies, who makes them and how his dad has the biggest because he’s “the boss of every single thing.” Q says that his bottom bleeds and that the last time this happened was on the last day of school when there was a big party. All the children, says Q, “do sex to him;” and at the end of the party his Dad “kills babies and eats the meat.” Like P, Q suggests that “all the teachers, (his) dad’s friends … and also the parents who are really mean” to him are involved.”
Even the school nurse (a delightful motherly woman who was always on hand in my day to apply an elastoplast to grazed knees) was said to be involved in giving sinister injections; and needless to say the Parish priest – a blameless High Church Anglican – was implicated. There were said to be secret rooms in the Church. Babies’ skulls featured in weird rituals. Even nearby businesses were part of the cult. A shoe repair shop in East Finchley apparently used baby skins to make shoes and a nearby MacDonalds was used for murders and body boiling.
Absurd and utterly incredible such allegations appear now, and so they should have appeared to the police at the time. Police were actually given an audio recording of the mother’s boyfriend “coaching” the children at a friend’s house. The friend appears to have been sufficiently concerned for the children’s welfare to have recorded what was happening on his mobile phone.
Unfortunately, in what seems to be the fashionable way, rather than approach the allegations sceptically the police decided to “believe the victims” and treated them, at least to start with, as true. The recording of the children being coached was simply put in a cupboard and, it seems, ignored. The police took the children on a drive around Hampstead so that they could point out venues where abuse had taken place.
More seriously they were also subjected to not one but two separate intimate anogenital examinations by Dr Deborah Hodes.
Dr Hodes is an extremely big shot in the world of child protection. According to the University College Hospital website:
“Deborah Hodes is a Consultant Community Paediatrician in the community trust for the London Borough of Camden and at University College London Hospitals. Deborah studied medicine at the Royal London Hospital and trained in paediatrics …. Deborah is a fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and has an active role there as a co-opted member of the Child Protection Standing Committee and writes for their publications. She represented the College on the Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation that reported in 2013 and now is the representative on the Children’s Commissioners Inquiry into child sexual abuse.
“Her key interest is in safeguarding children. She is Designated Doctor in Child Protection in Camden. She teaches both locally and nationally and at UCLH she leads the student teaching of community paediatrics. At UCLH her clinic includes the assessment of children with complex safeguarding presentations including historic sexual abuse.”
Big shot or not, Dr Hodes did not cover herself in glory in this case.
She found, or thought she found, signs of scars or healed fissures around the anuses of both children. On the second examination, a few days later, she found “reflex anal dilatation” in one child. It was supposed findings of RAD, of course, that led to the wrongful diagnosis of child abuse in large numbers of children in Cleveland in the 1980s. It remains a somewhat controversial diagnostic tool. The best that can be said for it is that it may be, but is not necessarily, an indication that sexual abuse has taken place.
A few days after this, both children withdrew their allegations at a further police interview.
A subsequent meeting with other doctors caused Hodes to significantly amend her findings in relation to the “fissures”. Far from being injuries, she conceded that (in the Judge’s words):
This concession seems to have been overlooked by those who continue to insist that the medical evidence “unequivocally” established that the children had been sexually abused.
Nevertheless, Dr Hodes concluded:
“… the extensive and detailed accounts given by both children, repeated to different professionals, contain details of sexual acts that such young children would need to have had some sort of direct experience (sic).”
Such an observation does not sound like a medical finding so much as a speculative guess; a sort of perverse wishful thinking. The idea that other people could have told the children about sexual acts, thereby allowing the children to repeat them, either didn’t occur to Dr Hodes, or if it did occur she dismissed it as inconceivable.
Even as recently as February 5th Dr Hodes was still treating the children’s allegations (which they themselves had long since admitted were false) as credible:
“the overall situation is such that it is my view that the allegations / accounts need to be taken very seriously despite the confusing picture.”
Joan of Arc: recanted her recantation
(a concept familiar to students of mediaeval heresy trials, when a timely recantation could sometimes save you, as it nearly saved Joan of Arc, from being burnt at the stake) were brushed aside, as though they merely served to confirm the truth of the original allegations:
“Until a study in 2007 it was mostly thought that recantation rates were related to the certainty with which child sexual abuse is substantiated and that retraction of true allegations is rare and that when retraction occurs the allegation is likely to be false. Lindsay et al found a recantation rate of 16.9% in 257 substantiated cases of CSA which had relied on formal interviews by police and social services.” (One could have added another “sic” there; the study to which she referred was actually by a Lindsay C. Malloy, although perhaps that was the judge’s slip).
“a series of more detailed observations and assessments over a longer period of time by a psychiatrist or psychotherapist with a particular interest and expertise in child maltreatment including sexual abuse.”
The Judge described this as “bemusing” because the children had already been subjected to detailed psychiatric examinations.
In fact, as Pauffley’s judgment makes clear, far from demonstrating that they had had any experience of sexual acts, the physical findings were completely inconclusive. The judge ruled that there had been no satanic cult or sexual abuse, and there was a simple though unpleasant reason why the children had claimed that there had been:
“The children’s false stories came about as the result of relentless emotional and psychological pressure as well as significant physical abuse. Torture is the most accurate way to describe what was done by Mr Christie in collaboration with Ms Draper.”
The whole affair is deeply disconcerting on a number of levels.
Lots of people believed, and still believe this farrago of nonsense
The chances that a Satanic paedophile ring of this sort could operate at a Primary School are nil. The idea that large numbers of children could be sodomised with dildos every Wednesday and made to watch babies being murdered, and that their parents would not notice something a little odd going or that they would approve of it is patently ridiculous. The idea that all the parents were themselves in on the Satanism is itself absurd.
At least 5 members of the teaching and administrative staff who were present in my day have been named as Satanic abusers. So I can speak from personal experience. Without exception all of them are gentle, caring people who have devoted themselves to the school and the welfare of the children who have attended it.
Yet according to the mother’s latest video the cult has been in existence “for decades.” Well, it hasn’t. If it had been, my children would have been victims of it, and I would have been a perpetrator. They weren’t and I wasn’t.
One wonders, even in a hugely over-subscribed Church of England Primary School, how were these Satanic parents selected?
Are they chosen from amongst the ranks of the Illuminati, known to each other through participation in secret Satanic Covens?
If so, something went wrong in my case. I am not an Illuminatus, whatever that may be. I have never attended a Satanic coven and would not know what to do in the unlikely eventuality of finding myself at one. Far from enjoying naked sacrificial rituals in candlelit catacombs, I shudder at the prospect of having to shake hands with my neighbour in a Church of England “Sign of the Peace.”
Instead, we filled in a form and explained that we wanted our children to be taught enough about religion to make up their own minds when they were old enough to do so. We had a walk around the school, a chat to the then Head Mistress and we spent a few weeks on a waiting list.
At no time were we asked about our willingness to participate in Satanic orgies, nor was our consent sought to allow the teachers to bugger our children with dildos. If it had been, that would have raised serious questions over whether this was the right school for us.
So it is bunkum.
Yet a relentless internet campaign has been waged, and continues to be waged, to represent a non-existent paedophile ring at an excellent Primary School as merely the tip of an iceberg of similar abuse elsewhere. The unfortunate children (whose videos remain easily available on “truther” websites), who were tortured into making the allegations against the father that they loved, are described as “whistleblowers,” and explicit links are made to similar unproven allegations so as to suggest by a process of attrition that there are paedophile rings in every corner of society.
It is an odd coincidence that one of Ms Draper’s two “McKenzie Friends” (a non lawyer who is permitted to sit in court and assist a litigant in person) is a woman called Belinda McKenzie, who for some years has been one of the leading proponents of the myth that the Downs Syndrome child Hollie Greig was abused by a Scottish establishment paedophile ring. (Anyone who wishes to know more about Hollie Greig would do well to read Anna Raccoon’s superb 2010 dissection of the hysteria). The other is the thoroughly malignant Sabine McNeill, who seems (like the mother) to have left the country in order to continue her campaign without fear of arrest for contempt of court or harassment.
Unfortunately it is not just a few isolated fruitcakes who believe this stuff. That a respected doctor like Dr Hodes could take it seriously, even after the children’s allegations had been both withdrawn and discredited, suggests a dangerous willingness to believe nonsense, amongst even those who ought to to be the most scientifically scrupulous. Likewise, the attitude of the police when the allegations were first made seems to have been to believe the children and to ignore the recordings of their coaching which would have cast huge doubt over the affair.
Real people are damaged
No babies have been murdered, no children have been raped and no virgin blood drunk. But the propagation of the myth of the Hampstead paedophile ring is still immensely cruel to real people. The videos of the children themselves are, in effect, videos of child abuse. The effect of constantly posting and reposting these videos will be to expose the children to ridicule and bullying by their peers, whilst the psychological effects of being constantly reminded of their false stories can only be guessed at.
Nor should the cruelty to adults be overlooked. Practically all the teaching and administrative staff at Christ Church School have been named as members of the Satanic cult, along with many parents. It may be possible to laugh off such nonsense, but when the same allegations are repeated again and again for months it surely cannot be easy to do so. Some people, as the judge noted, have received threatening messages, something that has been facilitated by websites that have listed personal contact details to assist bullies. Online reviews of the school advise people to keep their children away. Church goers are picketed on Sunday mornings. Teachers are urged to strip off to prove that they don’t have devil tattoos on their private parts, as though it is in any way reasonable that anyone should have to humiliate themselves at the behest of crazy troublemakers.
The trouble with these sorts of campaign is that they work.
Almost nobody has the time, even if they had the inclination, to get to the bottom of an internet scare story. To follow the twists and turns of the Hollie Greig hoax, for example, would, by now, require the patience of a saint and the research skills of a Doctor of Philosophy. The same, I fear, will soon be true of the Hampstead Satanic Cult hoax, and no doubt that that is the intention of those who are orchestrating it. Eventually the truth becomes so entangled in thickets of deception and confusion that it disappears altogether to be replaced, at best, by a vague feeling that “something must have gone wrong.” There are already cries of cover-up. Soon, perhaps, there will be calls for an inquiry.
It is impossible to follow the development of the Hampstead Cult story, or the Hollie Greig hoax, without seeing parallels with the allegations of a historical VIP paedophile and murder ring that are being enthusiastically peddled by Exaro News in association with the Sunday People.
Of course it is possible, in fact it is virtually inevitable, that during the 1970s and 1980s Parliament, the armed forces and the intelligence services contained paedophiles. No doubt some of them committed offences against children. It is also, of course, possible that some or all of these organisations contained murderers.
What is in issue here is something quite different: that MPs, Ministers and senior officials participated in organised child abuse and murder, and then colluded in covering it up.
It is impossible to say with complete certainty that there was no such VIP paedophile ring and no murders but there are warning signs that should make us extremely cautious.
First, the central allegation, that children were murdered at orgies attended by Leon Brittan, other politicians and “VIPs” is on its face lurid, bizarre and improbable. The idea that politicians and others would stand by and watch murders taking place; that the bodies could be disposed of and everyone who knew of the crime, including people who were horrified by it, would simply remain silent for 30 or 40 years is inherently unlikely.
Secondly, the story has grown in complexity and confusion as the months have passed. Allegations of cover-ups in high places abound; ex-police officers are said to have been ordered to drop sensitive investigations. Complaints have been made to the IPCC. Talk is of of “D notices” and the Official Secrets Act, dossiers and missing dossiers; links are asserted between Dolphin Square and the Elm Guest House. Hints are dropped that children’s homes in Wales and Jersey are involved. Thanks to Exaro News we even have a detailed account of one of the alleged murders at Dolphin Square (said to have taken place in front of someone known as “Nick”), and of another murder on a Suffolk Estate (said to have taken place in front of someone known as “Darren”), though we know next to nothing of those making the allegations and have no means of judging their veracity. We are invited simply to put our trust in Exaro. The stories are already so many and so varied that some will be tempted to conclude that there must be something in them. The assertion that wicked things have happened and that they have been deliberately covered up has been repeated for so long that it becomes ever harder for anyone to doubt. It is easy to see how in such an atmosphere the fairness of any criminal trial would be horribly compromised.
Thirdly, the police have let it be known that they are treating the allegations of murder as “credible and true” It is hard to know what this actually means. It is one thing to describe an allegation as “credible” (meaning it is “capable of belief”), quite another to say it is “true.”
To announce that a murder allegation is “true” before any real investigation has taken place and even before any body has been found, suggests a dangerous lack of professional scepticism: exactly the sort of mindset, in fact, that was criticised by Pauffley J in the Hampstead case. The police should be investigating “Nick” and “Darren’s” claims, not simply looking for evidence to support them. As a proper scientist looks for evidence to disprove a hypothesis, so a proper police investigation should be actively looking for evidence to undermine their claims. Perhaps this is happening, though the public pronouncements suggest otherwise.
Moreover, announcing that “Darren” and “Nick” are regarded as truthful has the effect of warning anyone who may have a contrary account to give, that the police will regard their accounts as untruthful. Why go to the police with information that might undermine Nick and Darrren if the police have already publicly announced that they will regard your account as “untruthful”?
Should any of these allegations ever come to trial, the declaration by a senior police officer that he thought the claims were true, even before the investigation had properly got under way would invite a comment along these lines from the defence advocate:
“Was this a fair and objective inquiry, members of the jury? Or did the police approach it with the blinkered preconception that Nick and Darren must be believed? Were they blind to the possibility that there was no VIP paedophile ring, no high level cover up and, in fact, no murders?
“And who was really running this investigation, the police or a sensationalist news organisation and its tabloid newspaper partner?”
Fourthly, the Exaro paedophile ring allegations, just like the Hampstead cult allegations, have caused, and will continue to cause, real distress to real people. Bandying around accusations and innuendoes of rape and murder is not something to be undertaken lightly, or because a news organisation is intent on whipping up a story. Yet we have had well-publicised police raids on the recently widowed Lady Brittan, the nonagenarian war hero Lord Bramall and the ex-MP Harvey Proctor. It is in the nature of these stories that even if no charges are ever brought, people will believe that these people are in some way implicated in rape, paedophilia and murder.
These are not trivial concerns.